POLS 340, POLS 397H: Political Analysis


Professor Barbara Burrell

Tuesday and Thursday, 11:00-12:15

Dusable 170 Fall 2006


Office:  115 Zulauf , 753-7050,  bburrell@niu.edu

Office Hours:  Wednesdays, 1-4 PM, except 2nd Weds. of the month- 3-5 PM.  I am also usually in my office on Wednesday mornings and during the day before and after classes on Tues and Thurs.


Teaching Assistant: Brian Frederick

E-mail: bfrederi@niu.edu, Phone: 753-1818

Office: DuSable 476, Office Hours: Thursday, 12:30-1:30


Course Description:  The study of politics involves seeking answers to political problems, puzzles and questions.  In this course we will learn how political scientists have engaged in political inquiry with a focus on developing and implementing systematic research agendas.  Think about important concepts, for example, power, representation, and participation. How might we go about studying these concepts so central to political life, especially democratic political life? How might we answer the question, for example, of how widely power and influence is distributed in the United States?  Or what did the people say in the 2006 election?  How do lawmakers decide to cast the votes that they do? Do Supreme Court justices generally follow precedent when making their rulings or their own personal beliefs?  Does a cultural divide exist in the United States?  What do we mean by a cultural divide? This course will help you think carefully and systematically about political questions, their potential answers, and the types of evidence needed to evaluate those answers. 


In the first weeks of the course students will be introduced to social science research by discussing how one develops research questions and hypotheses. What is a hypothesis anyway?  We will consider different research designs, that is, what are the different ways in which you could go about investigating the political puzzle you wish to solve? The second part of the course provides students with the tools necessary to test hypotheses systematically and quantitatively. Here you will learn some basic statistics.  Statistics such as percentages have become a staple of informed political analysis and of being a good consumer of political knowledge.   


Required text books:


Johnson, Janet Buttolph, and H.T. Reynolds.  2005.  Political Science Research Methods, 5th ed.  Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.


Pollock III, Philip H.  2005.  An SPSS Companion to Political Analysis, 2nd ed.  Washington, D.C.:  CQ Press.


Rochefort, David A.  2006.  Quantitative Methods in Practice: Readings from PS. Washington, D.C.:  CQ Press.


These books are available at the NIU bookstore. Students are strongly encouraged to visit sites such as www.campusi.com to find cheaper, used versions of these books (although students should not buy earlier editions of the books as they have been updated substantially.  Also, if you buy the Pollock book online you must be sure that the CD is included with it). 

A fee is required to take this course. That fee gives you access to the SOCQRL Computer Lab in DuSable 222. You will be able to do your assignments in the SOCQRL Lab and have trained tutors available to help you. The lab is open Monday-Thursday from 12PM-10PM, Friday from 8AM-5PM, and Sunday from 6PM-10PM.  You can visit the SOCQRL webpage (ww.socqrl.niu.edu) for more information.  If you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask.    


Course Policies:


1.  Attendance is required.  I will take attendance each day. You will get credit for attending class and will be penalized for not attending.  If you are late to class after attendance has been taken, you will not be allowed to sign in for the day. If you fall asleep in class or your cell phone goes off or you disrupt the class in any other way, you will lose credit for being in class that day. If you have an urgent need to have cell phone on, please let me know ahead of time.  No cell phones or other personal electronic devices should be used in any way in class.


Class will end at 12:15. I am the one who ends class. Do not pack up and get ready to leave early or you will not get credit for being in class that day.  Please get water and take care of other necessities before, not during class.    


Course Outline:

It is important that reading assignments be done before the day in which they are assigned. 

NOTE:  I reserve the right to change the syllabus. 


Week of Jan. 15th      Introduction and Course overview

Reading:   Johnson and Reynolds, Political Science Research Methods, chaps 1, 2


Week of January 22nd  

Readings:  Johnson and Reynolds, Political Science Research Methods, chaps 4, 6

   Quantitative Methods in Practice, From Knowledge to Practice and Chap 1


ASSIGNMENT 1: Due in class on January 25th.  Find an article about a public policy problem or political issue in the news media or in one of your other political science courses. What is the problem or question being addressed and how is it being addressed? What are the major concepts that the policy makers or researchers are dealing with?  How are they going about studying the problem or question?  Do they present some data? Do they have findings and if so, how have they reached them.  You may need or want to go deeper than the news article by looking for more information about the study or approach to the problem on the researchers’ website.  Just write a one-two page summary trying to answer these questions. This assignment will be the basis of class discussion so come prepared to describe your problem or issue.



Week of January 29th    Different Research Designs

                Johnson and Reynolds, Political Science Research Methods, chaps 5, 7, 8

            Readings: Quantitative Methods in Practice, Chapters 2, 3


Week of February 5th     Survey Research

Johnson and Reynolds, Political Science Research Methods, chaps 9, 10

Readings: Quantitative Methods in Practice, Chaps  4, 5


ASSIGNMENT 2: Due in class on February 8.  Find a public opinion poll in the national news media and answer the following questions: who conducted the poll, whom did they survey, how many people did they survey, what questions did they ask, what response categories did they give people to choose from and what were their findings, when was the survey conducted? What is your assessment of this poll as a measure of public opinion.  Attach the survey report to your paper.   


Week of February 12th        


February 13th  - Guest lecture, Professor Rebecca Hannagan, experimental designs  

Readings Johnson and Reynolds, chap. 3

Political Science Research Methods, chaps 9, 10


February 15th :  Introduction to SPSS,  beginning descriptive statistics and crosstabulations

Readings: Pollock, An SPSS Companion to Political Analysis, chaps 1, 2, 3

Johnson and Reynolds, chap 11

Quantitative Methods in Practice, Chaps   6, 7


Week of February 19th :  Continue descriptive statistics and crosstabulations

Readings: Quantitative Methods in Practice, Chaps 8, 9

Assignment 3: We will examine the financing and vote getting of men’s and women’s campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives.

ASSIGNMENT 3 due in class on February 22nd.


Week of February 26: Review and Midterm examination


March 1st Midterm Exam


Week of March 5th :  Begin  Making Comparisons, Measures of Association and Transforming Variables

Readings: Quantitative Methods in Practice, Chaps 10, 11

Reading, Pollock, chap 3, Johnson and Reynolds, Chap. 12, pages 339-371


Week of March 12th  - Spring Break


Week of March 19th  

Readings: Quantitative Methods in Practice, Chaps 12, 13


March 20th  -Using Census data


March 22nd : Continue controlled comparisons, measures of association and transforming variables.

Readings: Pollock, chap 4, 5

ASSIGNMENT #4 due in class on  March 25


Week of March 26th;     Making Inferences about Sample Means

Readings: Quantitative Methods in Practice, Chaps  14, 15

Pollock,  chap 6


Week of April 2nd   

April 3rd – Guest lecture, Professor Brendon Swedlow, “Risk as a political concept and doing risk analysis”


Readings: Quantitative Methods in Practice, Chaps 16, 17

Chi-Square and Measures of Association (Pollock, chap 7)

ASSIGNMENT 5, due in class, April 5


Week of April 9th:   Begin Bivariate Regression

Readings: Pollock, chap 8; Johnson and Reynolds, chap 12,  pp 372-402)


April 12th – No class, Midwest Political Science Association annual meeting


Week of April 16th :   Continue Bivariate Regression and start Multiple Regression

Readings: Quantitative Methods in Practice, Chaps  18, 19

                 Johnson and Reynolds, chap 13, pages 403-428  

 ASSIGNMENT 6 due in class, April 19th


Week of April 23rd : Multiple Regression, cont., Dummy Variables and Interaction Effects, Logistic Regression  (Pollock, chaps 9, 10

Readings: Quantitative Methods in Practice, Chap 20

            Pollock, chaps 9, 10,   Johnson and Reynolds, chap 13, pages 429-451 

ASSIGNMENT 7 due in class, April 26


Week of April 30th   Conclusion and Summation


Week of May 7th  - Final Examination, Tuesday, May 8th, 2-3:50 PM


Quantitative Methods in Practice Assignment:

As you read each article take note of the following factors:

1.      What is the main research question? Make a list of the major concepts being studied.

2.      What is the research methodology being used to address this research question?

3.      What hypotheses, if any, are developed to answer the research question?

4.      What data are used in the study?

5.      What statistics are used?


Create a type of spreadsheet similar to the one at the beginning of the text, to sum the data you have collected in response to these questions.  We will work together to get this spreadsheet started and determine what the final product will look like. Students must turn in their completed spreadsheet at the end of the term.  Due: in class, May 3   




Attendance/participation  10%

Assignments (7)   35% of grade (5% each)   

Quantitative Methods Spread Sheet  10%

First examination  20%

Final examination  25%


Grading Scale

90%-100%  -  A    80%-89%  -  B      70-79% -  C     60%-69%  -  D       Less than 60%  -  F


Plagiarism Statement: "The attempt of any student to present as his or her own work that which he or she has not produced is regarded by the faculty and administration as a serious offense. Students are considered to have cheated if they copy the work of another during an examination or turn in a paper or an assignment written, in whole or in part, by someone else. Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources or if they paraphrase ideas from such sources without acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university." Northern Illinois University Undergraduate Catalog.



Department of Political Science Web Site:

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu.